March 2007 and some early spring-like weather tempted me into a day out. I decided to use public transport, which was nearly a disaster when a bus timetable from the internet turned out to be fiction. On arriving by train in Uttoxeter, I found that the connecting 32A bus to Alton didn't exist. Fortunately, a walk to Uttoxeter bus station found a 107 going to Ashbourne via Denstone.
Click the images to enlarge.
Thanks to my transport problems, I started the walk half-an-hour late, two miles further down the valley than intended, in Denstone.
Climbing up the hill to Saltersford Lane, the weather was breezy but sunny and any annoyance at the dodgy start was soon left behind.
The lane was boggy in places but the line of stones, known as a "causey", did its job and I reached Alton in good time.
The flag tower at Alton Towers was visible through the bare trees on the far side of the valley.
Returning now to the valley bottom, I rejoined the old railway path at Alton Station.
This weir used to control the water supply for the mill at Alton. The mill was used for various purposes over many centuries but fell into disuse as a water mill some time in the late nineteenth century.
Down in the valley bottom, pheasants are quite common. This one, with its showy plumage, is a male. The females, by contrast, are a drab brown colour.
When I reached Lord's Bridge, I crossed over to Smeltingmill, at the bottom of Dimmingsdale. At one time, lead was smelted here from ore mined at Ribden, but it was eventually converted into a corn mill, as shown by this mill stone set into the wall.
Most of the site has been converted for residential use but the mill pond remains as a fishing lake. At the head of the lake, the Staffordshire Way leaves Dimmingsdale for Ousal Dale and the woodlands above Oakamoor.
The path emerges at East Wall Farm which, in the middle ages, was a centre for iron smelting. The embankment behind the hedge in the foreground is the remains of the Woodhead Tramway that carried coal from the mines at Cheadle to the Uttoxeter Canal at Eastwall Wharf.
Little of this industrial past is visible now and, for the most part, the geese have the place to themselves. From here, I continued on to Froghall and a lunch stop at the Railway Inn.
After lunch, I took to the canal. The morning sunshine had been replaced by overcast gloom but trickle ridge, near Consall Upper Flint Mills, still managed to glisten in the light diffusing through the bare trees.
At Consallforge, three modes of transport come together. The canalised river Churnet has the Churnet Valley Railway running on one bank and the embankment that once carried the Consall Plateway on the other.
At Cheddleton, the canal rises through these two locks.
At Cheddleton Flint Mill, the wharf buildings straddle the canal.
A crane has been preserved by the canal here. The partly-excavated stone structure looks like a kiln for roasting flint, although the site has been used for all kinds of purposes over the centuries.
The mill, as it stands today, is a preserved flint mill, where flint was roasted and ground into slurry for the pottery industry. Its history goes back much further, though, and it has had other uses, including corn grinding and fulling.
At Hazlehurst, the canal used to rise through a triple staircase lock, where the green boat is moored, to join with the Leek branch. This proved to be a bottleneck and a waste of water and was replaced by the three single locks that are there today.